Alitalia to Sicily

Profile picture for user Mark L

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17 years 4 months

Posts: 4,209

At the start of the year we booked our family holiday to Sicily, in part due to the excellent fares that Alitalia were offering to Catania by connecting through Rome or Milan. I managed to get a combination involving Rome on the outbound and Milan on the inbound, saving almost £200 each off the price BA were charging for a direct flight. Given there were 6 of us, that was quite a significant saving overall!

12/08/2006 London Heathrow – Rome Fiumicino

The 12th was only 3 days after the increased security measures came into force in the UK preventing the carrying on of any hand luggage. This gave us enough time to prepare, and we turned up at the airport with everything packed into 6 suitcases. We rang Alitalia the night before, who told us they were opening up the desks earlier to accommodate the extra security procedures, and we were to turn up to the airport 3 hours before departure.

So at 0340 we got to LHR for the 0640 flight, and joined a huge snaking queue. Clearly many flights had been cancelled the night before, as there were loads of people sleeping all over Terminal 2 who had clearly been there a while. After 3 hours in the queue we were not much nearer the front, and reassuring staff informed us that the flight would be heavily delayed, and to stay in line. An hour or so later, all Rome passengers were called forward, and we finally made our way to a check in desk after nearly 4 hours in line.

After 5 or 10 minutes solving a problem involving our connection through to Catania, we were finally told the Rome flight was overbooked, and there were no longer any seats! Most of my family were understandably very infuriated after having been waiting in line so long, and we made our way to the ticket desk to sort out the rebooking.

We were put onto the next Rome flight that left 2 hours later, however due to it being a Saturday there were no available Catania flights until 8pm from Rome! In compensation however we got:

£1000 (250 Euros each)
£60 of meal vouchers
Executive Lounge access at LHR
And a 7 hour layover in Rome in which to see all the sights

With this in mind the mood soon lightened, particularly given the fact that we had only paid about £700 for the flights in the first place!

After taking advantage of a free breakfast and queuing at security for ages, our flight was boarding, so we had no time to take advantage of the lounge access, and we took our seats in the middle of I-DATJ, an MD82. The aircraft was showing its age, but could have been a lot worse. After sitting around for half an hour or so for a new slot, we took off from runway 27L, and made our way towards Rome.

In flight catering consisted of a single drinks service (red orange juice, mmmm!) and a snack box, which consisted of a sandwich, cake, and yoghurt. After 2.5 hours airborne time we were in Rome, where we taxied onto a remote stand, and were bussed to the terminal. Clearing passport control in record time (no bags to worry about!) we headed into Rome.

12/08/2006 Rome Fiumicino – Catania Fontanarossa

After seeing all the sights we headed back to FCO on the train, and cleared a deserted security area in Terminal A. Security was really lax, and my brother managed to set off the X-Ray machine without being challenged! Despite rushing back from Rome to make our flight we met an hours delay, and so sat around watching the action. Soon though we were boarding another MD82, I-DATL, in the exact same seats as before. We taxied out briskly, and carried out a rolling take off, and headed off to the South.

After about an hours flying time, and 5 minutes or so holding over the US Air Base at Sigonella, we touched down at Catania with some impressive views of Mount Etna. After disembarking into the terminal (with the obligatory 10 metre bus ride) we were surprised to see huge lines of baggage away from the carousels. 3 of our bags were there, and another 2 came out of the baggage belts. The terminal was heaving at this point, and after getting a crash course in Sicilian queuing systems (there are none) we finally reported the bag missing, and got another crash course in Sicilian driving…at night. Not for the faint hearted.

After 3 days the bag finally turned up at our Villa. Slightly discoloured, and absolutely covered in dry grass. If only bags could talk…

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Profile picture for user Mark L

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17 years 4 months

Posts: 4,209

26/08/2006 Catania Fontanarossa – Milan Malpensa

After an amazing two weeks in Sicily, it was back to Catania. An 8am start for an 1150 flight was not popular, particularly when after arriving at 1000 we found a 3 hour delay to the flight, pushing it back to 1440. After joining another Sicilian “Queuing System” we were checked in for the late flight, and told that we would not make our connection to LHR, and again, the next flight they could get us on wasn’t until 2035 out of MXP. Once again however compensation was offered, in the form of a Business Class upgrade on the MXP-LHR sector for all 6 of us!

We were advised that airside was very sparse at CTA, and so we remained landside until half an hour before the flight. We were also given access to the Alitalia lounge, however it was absolutely tiny! 3 sofas and 2 tables, even smaller than my living room! Getting a seat was impossible, and there was nothing to do in there anyway, so we sat upstairs on the balcony overlooking the check in hall, playing card games and eating lunch with our once again freely provided meal vouchers again:

Finally it was time to go through security, and after more queuing we boarded I-BIXF, an Airbus A321. Half an hour was further added to the delay due to problems with the air conditioning, but finally we were underway, climbing out over Catania, with a small glimpse of part of Mount Etna to the left:

After a drink and a biscuit we were soon over the Lakes, and making our way into Milan. Two floating attempts, and then a good side-swipe touchdown ensued, and we then came to a rapid stop, pulling up to the gate at Malpensa.

26/08/2006 Milan Malpensa – London Heathrow

After transiting between Pier A to Pier B through passport control, we made our way to the Alitalia lounge, which was thankfully deserted. Although it was slightly less well equipped than the BA lounges, it was still nice to have some comfy seats, free drinks, and some nibbles to keep us comfortable for 3.5 hours before our flight to London.

The time soon passed, and we made our way down to the bus gate. There we were greeted by officials in rubber gloves, telling us there was an EU wide ban on liquids on board aircraft, and we had to surrender everything. Slightly strange given the same airline had said nothing of this fact earlier on in the day at Catania, not only in the EU, but also the same country! In any case they weren’t doing a very good job of it, and didn’t bother checking half our bags which had several bottles of water in!

After a short drive across the ramp we boarded another A321, I-BIXD, and I took my seat right at the very front of the aircraft in row 2, and had both A and C seats to myself. We had a short wait for someones bags to be offloaded, and departed out into a spectacular thunderstorm. We were treated to some mild turbulence, but an absolutely fantastic light display in two large towering cumulo nimbus clouds to our starboard side, totally illuminating the clouds in their entirety with every flash. It was something I had never seen before, and I only wish I had been able to get a photo.

After 20 minutes or so the turbulence ended, and the service began. My Mum and my Sister got very excited when the Chief Steward put his hat on to serve us dinner! In any case the dinner was very nice indeed, a platter of cured meats and salad to start, chicken risotto for the main course, and a fruit salad for dessert. As well as that there were numerous drinks services made.

In far too short a period of time we were making our approach into Heathrow, and despite a very violent patch of turbulence for a few minutes, we touched down smoothly back on 27L. After being the first passenger to disembark the aircraft (a first for me!) we waited for about half an hour for our luggage, before heading home, thankfully with all 6 pieces!


It is clear to see why Alitalia is losing money. It has a proactive marketing department getting bums on seats with low fares, but the infrastructure of the entire operation cannot keep up, to the extent that they have to spend more money rectifying all the problems that occur. The security situation cannot have helped, but overbooking a flight to Italy on a Saturday is just asking for trouble! However the service end of the airline was extremely professional. Every single person we encountered went out of their way to help us and make us more comfortable, and it is that element of an airline that always makes you want to fly them again.

Despite all the problems we have, I was still left with an overly favourable impression of Alitalia, and will have no hesitation in flying with them again if I get the chance.

Profile picture for user SHAMROCK321

Member for

16 years 6 months

Posts: 2,495

Good report. I look after lost baggage as part of my job and am just thankful that we didnt handle any LHR flights and FlyBE didnt have to many problems.

I to choose to take the cheaper option for my summer holiday and routed through BCN enroute to ALC and had no baggage problems luckily.

Profile picture for user T5

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20 years 7 months

Posts: 6,503

An excellent report and two great photographs to accompany it! :)

I was chuffed to receive a double upgrade on my EVA Air flight from Bangkok to Heathrow last year. Due to the flight being full, we were moved to Premium Economy and then faulty inflight entertainment meant that we were moved upstairs to Business - which was perfect!

And something I never realised but the curtains on the lower deck of the 747 were drawn when we arrived, allowing for First and Business passengers to disembark first. I was also the first off of this particular flight.

Member for

17 years 3 months

Posts: 12,842

Nice report.....anymore pics???